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e neighborhood arts center 






Earlier in American history cultural activity proliferated in 
small towns, villages and rural areas, as each neighborhood developed a 
self-sufficient creative spirit which nurtured its soul. Artists and artisans 
gathered at local fairs, on holidays of national significance, in their 
homes and in churches to celebrate the spirit of creativity. They shared 
works and wares in a spirit of goodwill which enhanced the quality of 
life and brought beauty to people's hearts in a pioneering way. 

Urbanization choked off this organic expression of community 
life. Large urban centers— New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles and 
Chicago— became the focus for artists and the melting pots of creative 
thought, draining neighborhoods of their best talent. The ivory towers 
of our cultural centers were here to stay, and neighborhoods were by- 
passed by the cultural mainstream. In recent years this trend has 








Neighborhood Institutions Need Long 
Distance Runners 

Space: A Roof Over The Head 

Running The Neighborhood Arts 
Center: Who's Responsible For What? 

Organizational Structure 

Financial Management 

Community Public Relations 


Problems, Problems, Problems 

Creative Leadership 

Don't Grow Too Fast Too Soon 


Getting Things Done: A Few Reminders 











During the last decades neighborhood people, searching for 
identity and continuity, have begun to reexamine their role in the 
creative process. They have recognized that, by developing their own 
resources and providing an arena for creative expression, they can 
establish a cultural focus which welds together many segments of the 
neighborhood. Starting, sometimes with one small project, they have 
been able to develop a heightened sense of participation, fellowship and 
community need. Once a project begins, local residents usually become 
aware that they can be creators, rather than simply consumers, of 
culture and that they have historic roots in the creative process. 

A burgeoning cultural awakening is happening in neighborhoods 
throughout the country, in both urban and rural settings. This 
renaissance is creating a demand for institutions which serve people's 
creative needs. Organizations and institutions have sprung up to meet 
these needs in a variety of ways. Although the groups may differ in 
specific areas, there are certain characteristics that are shared by all 
organizations which we call community or neighborhood institutions: 
each organization has grown out of the neighborhood it serves, each 
encourages citizen participation in the arts and each opens itself to help 
fill other needs of the neighborhood. Among the kinds of organizations 
found under the general category of neighborhood institutions are: 

1 . The community cultural center which typically provides 
training and instruction in different art forms and which offers 
performing and exhibition space for the neighborhood on an on-going 
basis. Very often, these groups are able to serve as centers for 
neighborhood life in other ways as well— a service that will be explored 
in pages to come. 

2. The neighborhood arts service organization is one which 
generally offers administrative, developmental, promotional and 
programmatic services for a broad variety of neighborhood-based arts 
organizations. Such services may include equipment loans, publicity 
and sponsorship of activities. Although not presenting or teaching 
institutions, these groups provide essential services to others who do 
teach and present in the neighborhood; moreover, service organizations 
that are successful establish very close ties within their neighborhoods. 

3. Community arts consortia are affiliations created by two or 
more neighborhood-based arts programs who share their financial 
development, administration, technical and/or promotional resources 
while maintaining artistic and programmatic autonomy. Once again, 
while these organizations are not directly involved in presenting or 
teaching of art, they are devoted to the survival of those organizations 
that do and will tap resources in the neighborhood to foster such 

4. Another neighborhood arts activity is the regional tour 
event, a happening that has reappeared in the neighborhoods of this 
country following a dormant period. These festive events bring together 
community arts groups of all types from a mini-region to a central site 
to present a festival of events, generally coordinated by a local sponsor. 

Each of the above listed arts groups and events has its own 
orientation of energy. Each must have roots sunk deep in the 
neighborhood, otherwise it cannot function— nor even have a reason for 
existing. In each case these organizations are providing, or supporting 
an organization which provides, an enriching confluence of ideas and 
participation in the cultural ethos of a neighborhood. The groups feed 
into and draw upon the resources of the major institutions of culture; 
however, they have a local flavor that brings integrity and excitement 
to residents of the neighborhood. The character of this art experience 
usually brings local residents to the awareness that they can be creators, 
rather than solely consumers, of culture and that they have historic 
roots in the creative process. 

The Expansion Arts Program of the National Endowment for 
the Arts feels that the continued health and growth of neighborhood 
institutions must be encouraged and assisted; thus, the Program is 
sponsoring the publication of this booklet with the intention of 
providing advice on the subject of institution building at the 
neighborhood level. A more detailed publication on the managerial 
aspects of the community arts center may be found in Basic 
Management: The New Arts Center (volume 1) in this series. 





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When the idea of a neighborhood 
arts center first germinates, organizers 
should plan a meeting with a small core 
group from the neighborhood concerned to 
present a proposal and feel out interest. 
However, before such a meeting is called, 
the organizers must explore and answer for 
themselves the basic, preliminary questions 
about the feasibility of establishing such an 
organization. Among the most basic 
questions are the following: 

• What are the advantages of this 
particular community having an arts 

• Are there other organizations 
that already provide the same services? 

• Is there sufficient need and 
appeal to justify organizing a center? 

• What community preparation 
will be needed to launch a center? 

• Which are the best organizations 
and institutions with whom to work? 

• Will volunteer services be 

• How should volunteers be 

• Is the goal of establishing a 
center attainable in light of existing economic 

The answers to these questions will 
provide the organizers with facts upon 
which a beginning proposal can be con- 
structed. In addition, prior to an organi- 
zational meeting, the organizers might want 
to carry out a neighborhood poll, based on 
this type of questionnaire: 

"Would you like to see an arts center 
in this neighborhood providing the 
following services: instruction in 
dance, theatre, photography; exhibits 
of work done by neighborhood chil- 
dren; etc.? List them by function. If 
so, please sign your name and address 
on this petition." 

Such a poll can start the ball-a-rollin' and, 
if the community responds affirmatively, 
can be a most welcome source of support 
and future resources. 

Armed with a proposal, answers to 
the basic questions and the results of the 
neighborhood poll, the organizers are ready 
to ask for a meeting with a small group 

which should reflect a combination of 
grassroots people, professionals and 
businessmen. This meeting should deal with 
two issues: 

1) the feasibility of the project 
based on available data, and 

2) certain questions, the answers 
to which should be the basis for the next 
stages of planning. 

The organizers must have some idea 
of the type of feedback they will want to 
get from this group. They should strive for 
clarity in the discussion and should 
establish themselves as serious and efficient 
organizers. The discussion should provide a 
handle on public reception, public support 
and public opinion regarding the idea of 
establishing a neighborhood arts center. 
Some of the questions directed to the 
people at the first meeting might be: 

• Is the idea feasible, and can 
community support be generated? 

• What will be the most effective 
way of stimulating community 

• If this group supports the 
proposal, would the group back the idea 
with money, influence and participation? 

• Will this group participate on the 
Board of Directors, or will there be a 
separate Board and, if so, what will be this 
group's relationship to the Board? 

Conduct a feasibility 

• Will this group become the 
operations staff, with one of its members as 
Executive Director? 

• Can support from the local 
business community be tapped? 

It is important for the organizers to offer 
the group an opportunity to see the direc- 
tion of their thinking and the seriousness of 
their preliminary investigations on these 
matters. On the other hand, it is equally 
important that the organizers be open and 
receptive to the comments and reactions of 


those whom they are consulting. Assuming 
that all goes well, in that the group and 
organizers see eye-to-eye on the potential 
of the project, planning will proceed. 

It is advisable, when exploring the 
idea of founding a neighborhood arts 
center, to conduct a feasibility investiga- 
tion—which may be patterned after the 
above outline or may take a different 
shape— to gauge the practicality of the 
original ideas and to begin a catalog of the 
resources and support available. 

The distinction between a feasi- 
bility investigation and planning is an 
important one. Once the feasibility has 
been demonstrated, the planning phase 
begins. However, planning continues 
throughout the life of program and center. 
Long-term planning should be given ample 
consideration during the planning process. 
Although it is easy to forget, planning is 
not done for once and for all. Flexibility is 
one of the few absolute requirements for 
successful development of a neighborhood 
arts center. If you find that something you 
planned is not working out as you thought 
it would, stop; assess what's going on and, 
if necessary, make a new plan. Planning 
should be fluid, flexible and above all, a 
continuous operation. 

During the earliest planning phases 
there will be many psychological problems 

confronting the organizers. They have to 
generate enthusiasm, as well as minimize 
apathy and disinterestedness in certain 
sectors of the community. They have to 
learn to accept rebuffs from people whom 
they respect, especially artists, who may 
not consider the proposed arts center a high 
priority. They must have complete faith in 
the validity and integrity of their project, as 
they may be accused by detractors of being 
paternalistic, cultural rationalists, social 
workers in disguise, rip-off artists or 
apostles of a pacification program. The 
criticism and name-calling can be 
discouraging, but the organizers must work 
hard during this period to instill com- 
munity confidence in their work and future 
projections. Therefore, serious planning is 
vital at this stage, for it affords the organi- 
zers an opportunity to see where they are 
going and what they must accomplish. Of 
course, there can be a few lucky breaks 
which catapult the project ahead of its 
schedule— such as the unexpected acquisi- 
tion of certain monies, excellent facilities 
or equipment— but such fortuitous events 
should not negate further planning and 
organizing. Centers, therefore, evolve 
through the energy, vision and creativity of 
the organizers and sometimes through luck 
and a series of unexpected events. Regard- 
less of whether it is perseverence or luck, 
ongoing planning is a must at specified 
stages of development. 



Getting The 
Center Started: 


the community 

in the early 



Growth and survival of the center 
may depend upon the organizers' ability to 
utilize fully all the talents in the community 
to the advantage of the center. In the 
earliest phases of planning, bring in repre- 
sentatives from social clubs, schools, 
businesses, etc. People like to be involved 
in projects from the beginning— they some- 
times resent being called on only when 
there is a crisis. Some things that can be 
done to involve diverse groups from the 
outset include: 

• Ask a local bank, or other 
business organization, to allow you to use 
its board room for your meetings. 

• Check with local corporations to 
see if one would be willing to print your 
literature in its printing shop and, perhaps, 
another would be willing to donate some 
used office equipment. 

• If you plan to serve young 
people, invite parents to become involved 
in early planning phases; solicit their 

• Call on your utility companies — 
gas, telephone, electric. Some of these com- 
panies will offer management seminars to 
Boards of Directors, staff members, etc. 

• Contact professional artists who 
live in the community. They might not be 
able to work fulltime at the center but 
might be honored to contribute an 
evening's lecture or performance. 

It is important to explore these avenues 
and to nurture relationships that can en- 
hance the scope of the center. This thrust 
should emanate from the creative 
dynamism of the center's activities or the 
quiet diplomacy of its sophisticated 

Every community has these types 
of resources. You must reach into the 
neighborhood and take advantage of their 
presence. This goodwill promotes neighbor- 
hood self-respect and solidifies community 
spirit. Local residents will take pride in this 
gesture, for it legitimizes the fundamental 
reason for the center's existence: to act as a 
conduit of cultural enrichment through the 
expansion of existing resources. 

Utilize fully all the 
talents in the community 
to the advantage of the 







The center will need workers who 
have the tenacity and ability to stay with a 
project until the very end. In addition, 
there is a need for administrators, workers 
and volunteers who will stick by the 
organization through good and bad times. 
They must have faith in the cultural mis- 
sion. Motivation and determination must 
always be encouraged. Some people don't 
have expertise or an excellent track record 
in the field, but they are highly motivated 
and possess the ability to acquire the tech- 
nical skills to perform well. Encourage 
these persons. On the other hand, you may 
have a highly skilled person in your center 
who is blase and will not give the necessary 
input which is especially crucial during the 
building stages. You must be careful in 
enlisting the latter. Of course, the best 
situation will be to have a highly motivated 
expert who has a good track record of 
neighborhood involvement. This is the best 
of all possible worlds and the kind of 
worker/volunteer that you need to build 
the center. 

Above all, it should be remembered 
that a neighborhood institution is founded 
and exists to serve the neighborhood. 
Residents must be made aware that the 
center exists for their use. The center, 
while the focus of cultural life, should also 
be available to the community for other 
resources: club meetings, social events and 
so forth on a space-available basis„ The 
primary focus is, and always will be, cul- 
tural. Nevertheless, the neighborhood 
institution, when functioning at its very 
best, serves as an essential neighborhood 
nerve center for life in all its diverse forms. 


Often, people ask what is the best 
location for a neighborhood arts center. 
The best location is any available space that 
is accessible to the residents of the com- 
munity. (For a full exploration of the in's 
and out's of acquiring, designing and adapt- 
ing space, see, Dealing With Space, volume 
4 in this series.) 

As you examine available spaces 
you should consider the following: 

1 ) What area you expect to serve. 

2) Who will be your clientele. 

3) What types of multi-discipline 
activities you are going to have in the 

4) How you plan to deliver 

The answers to these questions can 
assist the organizers in planning efficient 
use of space and resources. For example, if 
you are planning to serve senior citizens in 
the center, it is advisable to obtain a 
ground-level facility rather than a four- 
story house with poor stairways. 

On first discovering an available 
space, it is useful to consult with local 
architects, carpenters, builders, structural 
engineers or designers who can provide you 
with ideas for the best utilization of the 
space. Once you know what type of activi- 
ties you propose to conduct, use the space 
creatively. Be imaginative and innovative. 

The physical site is a crucial aspect 
of your program. You are establishing a 
permanent structure with a wide range of 
objectives and possible functions which will 
serve as an integral part of the community's 
life. You will be providing space, necessary 
equipment and professional guidance for 
the whole neighborhood in a setting that 
did not exist before. Wherever the center is 
located, emphasis must be placed on 
cultural activities and the development of a 
learning environment for creative 




Responsibility should be carefully 
delineated, so that the center can imple- 
ment and execute policy decisions effi- 
ciently. In addition, an atmosphere of 
seriousness and professionalism should be 
established in the center. Avoid cronyism 
and sentimentality. Get the best person for 
the specific job to be done. 


The Board of Directors should be 
responsible for establishing the policies that 
govern the operations of the center. The 
Board should be able to appoint and dis- 
miss the Executive Director. Planning, 
fund-raising and public relations matters 
should be jointly managed by the Board 
and the Executive Director. The ultimate 
survival of your organization may depend 
on your having a Board who will work hard 
in the interest of the center. 

The Advisory Board is composed of 
strategic persons whose expertise can be 
valuable for the improvement of the 
center's operations and artistic product. 
Generally, Advisory Boards do not play a 
role in an organization's policy-setting 
structure; they exist to provide specialized 
advice and talent. 

Auxiliary Support Groups are 
neighborhood-based organizations which 
might take on some aspect of the center's 
program as a special project they will sus- 
tain financially and professionally. Volun- 
teers are an essential element of support, 
and they should be encouraged, motivated, 
trained and supervised by the Executive 

Director. For volunteers you need doers, 
not talkers. Beware of volunteers with 
grandiose schemes for organizing a whole 
city or region. 

The Executive Director must be a 
competent person, with administrative 
skills and a critical eye for artistic excel- 
lence and quality performance. This person 
must be able to discuss professionally the 
arts product of the center's program. In the 
job profile, the organizers should look at 
organizational skill, management, effi- 
ciency, imagination, warmth and compas- 
sion, but neither sentimentality nor 
paternalism in human relations. The 
Executive Director may be recruited from 
outside the community, but the employ- 
ment contract should designate that the 
person must live in the community on 
appointment. The latter is important, for it 
is absolutely necessary that the Executive 
Director be thoroughly familiar with the 
resources and social services available to the 
community. If the Executive Director 
should resign or be dismissed, there must 
be an immediate search for a new person, 
since it is not sound policy for the center to 
be administered by ad hoc leadership. 

The Executive Director must 
devote full-time energies to the center, 
knowing exactly what to do and when to 
do it. Second guessing should be the excep- 
tion rather than the rule. The following 
might be some of the basic tasks: 


Functions to fulfill policies and 
aspirations of the Board of Directors and 
the community being served. 


1) Develops the center as an altern- 
ative learning vehicle in addition to its on- 
going artistic work. 

2) Organizes lectures, seminars, 
workshops, conferences and festivals. 


1 ) Manages the operations staff 
and the physical plant. 

2) Attempts to improve the quality 
of life in the community by introducing 
cultural activities that strengthen inter- 


personal relations with dignity and self- 

3) Maintains a high level of artistic 

Sources of Funds 

Analyzes funding potential and 
pursues various alternatives for income- 
generating activities, gifts, contributions 
and grants. 


1 ) Prepares a complete timetable 
with due dates and deadlines for each 

2) Plans and organizes all meetings 
that are functionally related to the life of 
the center. 

The Operations Staff should handle both 
artistic and administrative matters. At this 
level, there are three important persons 
who must be carefully recruited, for they 
will perform critical tasks in the life of the 
center. They are an efficient secretary, a 
competent bookkeeper and a skilled jani- 
tor/maintenance man. 

A Note of Caution! Often, practic- 
ing artists themselves are the originators of 
neighborhood arts groups and may become 
Executive Directors of these new organiza- 
tions. Asking an artist to be both artist 
and administrator is asking the person to do 
two rather different full-time jobs. Experi- 
ence has shown that it is often advisable to 
allow the artist to do his or her thing and to 
hire an administrative person to take on the 
management, fund-raising and public rela- 
tions responsibilities that must be discharged 
to maintain an effective neighborhood center. 
The artistic life of your center will be more 
vital if the artists are left free to provide 
artistic services and products. Don't ask 
artists to wear too many hats! 

Don't ask artists to wear 
too many hats. 


As a neighborhood cultural center- 
essentially a community-based organi- 
zation—there are certain financial 
management techniques, in addition to the 
general fiscal management guidelines for all 
groups (see the Expansion Arts Primer on 
management, volume 1 ), of which your 
organization should be aware. In addition 
to observing the normal fiscal management 
principles, those running a neighborhood 
arts center should be alert to the following 

Strategically tap all the resources in 
the community. It is important to tap all 
the resources in the neighborhood, especial- 
ly material resources from the local 
business community. As a result of the 
opening of the center and its multi-faceted 
cultural activities, the local businesses could 
realize some increased economic benefits. 
The Board of Directors and the Executive 
Director should emphasize the economic 
significance of the center to the business 
community and explore reciprocal arrange- 
ments through advertisements, gifts, grants, 
etc. They can point out the tax benefits of 
supporting the center to the local business- 
man. Point out that it's good business to 
support the center and that this responsible 
participation could lead to the center's 
self-development and self-sufficiency. If 
you are short of money, you may ask your 
local businessman for materials— e.g., 
lumber or bricks; or you could approach 
the local union to donate the services of 
specific craftsmen in certain aspects of 
building or remodeling. Write to whole- 
salers or retailers requesting some help and 
show them how their assistance could be a 
tax write-off. Write to professional societies 
of plumbers, carpenters, electricians, 
architects, engineers, who might be of some 
assistance. It doesn't hurt to ask. Acknowl- 
edge all gifts promptly. Publish a complete 
list of contributions from time to time. At 
this level you should actively involve your 
auxiliary support groups, your trained 
volunteers and the community-at-large, 
with each group using its leverage among a 
specific clientele. 


Develop earned income-bearing 
projects, with emphasis on becoming self- 
sufficient. A cultural center might start out 
as a nonprofit organization dependent on 
foundation grants and funding from 
charitable organizations. In the earliest 
stages of development, this would deter- 
mine the parameters of operation; yet, the 
leadership should develop an attitude of 
ingenuity which allows the center to gener- 
ate income and to strive for self- 

In our rich heritage, artisans, crafts- 
men and local community artists have pro- 
duced excellent work in handicrafts, furni- 
ture, pottery, quilts, leather goods, jewelry, 
iron grills, etc. These skills were passed on 
within the community, and people took 
pride in their creative achievement. The 
items the artists created were generally 
displayed and sold at community fairs. 
Today, this tradition is endangered, for 
community people are losing their skills 
from nonuse as we turn everything over to 
industry and automation. Even printmakers 
and graphic artists are no longer framing 
their work as they once did. Picture fram- 
ing has become a specialized field. 

The neighborhood cultural center 
can become the focal point for the revitali- 
zation of these skills, which have an in- 
come-generating potential. Many functional 
items can be produced by the center and 
sold in an arts and craft store, a boutique 
or a museum owned by the center. These 
items may include scarves, sculpture, jewel- 
ry, pottery, leather bags, clothes, handi- 
crafts, paintings, folk instruments, prints, 
posters and woodcuts. In addition, there 
may be earned income from other projects, 
such as public performances, lectures and 
films. Finally, the center could perform 
promotion, management and production 
services for several of its artists. The suc- 
cessful alumnus of a neighborhood arts 
center should also be asked to contribute 
generously to its ongoing work. 

Annually, the center should mount 
a celebration activity to raise funds, as well 
as to show the larger community the scope 
of its activities. It would be useful for the 
center to become a recruiting locale for art 
schools, universities and professional talent 

The neighborhood arts center 
should strive for economic self-sufficiency. 
Crafts shops, boutiques, performances, 
celebration activities can all be geared 
toward producing some income for the 
organization. In the financial planning of 
the center, provision should be made for 
ways to earn income from the earliest 
stages of development and there should 
also be an overall plan for the center to 
become totally self-supporting within its 
own community. 




Making a Good First Impression 

Your first contact with the larger 
community is very important. If the essen- 
tial groundwork is well laid, the communi- 
ty will be aware of the cultural and social 
contributions of the organizers, and, at the 
launching of the project, the organizers 
should be able to solicit the active partici- 
pation of influential residents. As part of 
the opening ceremony, let the local people 
see the imprint of their creative work on 
display. The organizers of the arts center 
should make it clear that the organization 
is merely an extension of the creative work 
in which the community has already been 
involved. Highlight the evolutionary 
process and credit the principle con- 
tributors of time, talent, ideas and money. 

The media should be well informed 
of the activities planned for the opening 
ceremony. For credibility's sake, the 
organizers should make certain that every- 
thing comes off smoothly, right down to 
refreshments and entertainment. Remem- 
ber: a first impression can be a lasting one, 
and an interested and receptive press can be 
a powerful ally, indeed. 

Ongoing Relationships with the 

Don't just go in, open a building 
and wait for the people to come in and 
participate. You must reach out to the 
people, provide a meaningful program and 


solicit their active participation. As you 
touch bases with them, you should be con- 
stantly checking out what they want and 
encouraging their input into the work of 
the center, as you have from the very first 

The residents of the community 
must feel that the center belongs to them— 
that they can participate freely in its activi- 
ties and that it will serve their cultural 
interests. They must see it as a place where 
all people can go and find courtesy, 
dignity, self-respect, information and enter- 
tainment. They must be made to feel that 
they were responsible for bringing it into 
existence. The center must never give the 
impression that it is the exclusive property 
of a single person or group of people, even 
though that group might have been the 
architects of the original idea. 

In organizing community support, 
the organizers should make certain that 
many local organizations get involved 
actively. Let the people know that the 
center exists, that it proposes to expand its 
range and that it is in the community to 
stay. Avoid the come-today-gone-tomorrow 
syndrome. Let your bucket down into the 
community and produce results. Tell 
people in simple terms what the center is 
going to do and how it proposes to accom- 
plish its objectives. 

Touching bases with the people and 
surrounding organizations is vital. This 
should be carefully planned and recorded, 
for the most mileage must be made from 
these everyday contacts. The center can be 
a place where local organizations hold 
meetings or fundraising functions. The 
center might even be able to point these 
organizations toward scarce resources and 
provide technical assistance in areas of its 
operational expertise. For example, a cen- 
ter that functions partly as a neighborhood 
art service could provide technical assis- 
tance and art services to groups, agencies 
and individual artists affiliated with it. 
Some areas covered could be: resource and 
referral services; promotional equipment 
and materials; technical assistance; sponsor- 
ship of activities; equipment banks and 
provision of detailed resource information 
on performing groups and individuals, 
booking agencies, exhibition facilities and 
performance locations. 

The residents of the 
community must feel that 
the center belongs to 


1 1 

Leaders in the neighborhood arts 
center should be aware of the way com- 
munity residents get information. Does 
everyone read the local weekly or daily 
newspaper? What radio stations are 
popular? Contact those stations and ask for 
air time for Public Service Announcements 
about the center's program. Explore possi- 
ble programs with the local television 
stations; often, they will invite community 
groups to take part in public affairs pro- 

Where do people in your neighbor- 
hood congregate? Is there a shopping cen- 
ter, a favorite eatery? Put up posters where 
people gather and will see them. What do 
the local politicians do to get their word 
out during a political campaign? Some- 
times, good ideas can be found by watching 
campaign workers. The trick is to figure 
out how people in your neighborhood find 
out about things. Then use those methods 
yourself. They often do not involve large 
amounts of money, just time and 

The center's organizers must nur- 
ture their relationships with the media to 
get the story out. Media coverage should 
pinpoint the creative work that is already 
taking place in the community and the 
tremendous advantage that the center can 
provide as it expands on existing activities. 

Stretch your imagination to come 
up with new ways of promoting the cen- 
ter's visibility and getting the word out to 
the local community. Use creative graffiti 
or paint murals at strategic locations. Get 
buttons and bumper stickers, if you can 
afford them, or encourage the workers of 
the center to make them. Buttons like 
"Support your Local Artist" and "You 
gotta have Art" can be very attractive 

Support: there can't ever be too 
much support for your ideas. Get the 
mayor, the alderman, the state assembly- 
man or state senator to write a letter or 
make a statement on behalf of the center. 
Any public official can write a form letter 
endorsing the idea of the center. You want 
them on your side, not against you. 

Alliances: some arts centers find it 
advantageous to develop alliances with 
institutions having a high degree of 
credibility in the areas within which they 
are functioning-e.g., an art institute, a uni- 
versity, a church. However, the concern 
here must be to gain credibility while main- 
taining the autonomy of the center's opera- 
tions and pursuits. 

Deliver the Best Quality Product and Build 
with Confidence 

The only way in which to build the 
community's confidence in its efforts is 
through excellent performance. Let the 
people be proud of what they are produc- 
ing, and they will encourage others to 
participate actively. The community must 
feel comfortable with the level of responsi- 
bility demonstrated by the center and its 

You must always be concerned 
about the high level of artistic performance 
that you mount and the quality of instruc- 
tion that you provide your participants. 
People have come to the center to study, 
learn and develop their creative potential; it 
is vital to introduce them to the best 
teachers and artists who can serve this atti- 
tude and need. Furthermore, if the 
participants at the center are serious, 
dedicated and disciplined, professionals will 
applaud the activity and offer their services 
when approached. 

Two guiding concepts must be 

1 ) Deliver a quality product that 
everyone can respect and take pride in. 

2) Develop a determination to 
accomplish established goals and priorities 
by facing up to the challenge of the 

You must develop a professional 
stance toward the creative life of the cen- 
ter. It is better to have a revolving teaching 
staff of competent professionals, than to 
have a single, mediocre, full-time person. 
Get superior people to teach, perform and 
exhibit, so that the community-at-large will 
respect your work. You can develop and 


Always project effici- 
ency, reliability and the 
ability to dolivor on time. 

train young people through association 
with serious professionals. An excellent arts 
program is better than the busy work of an 
arts and crafts program. Avoid busy work 
and unprofessional training. Don't give the 
community mediocre exposure; nothing 
but the best is good enough for them. 

During the first year of operations, in 
particular, you must check the credibility and 
reliability of the artists whom you have 
asked to perform or mount shows at the 
center. If an artist has a reputation for 
being unreliable or "shaky" in public 
appearances or performances, you should 
investigate this very carefully before you 
schedule the person. In the beginning, the 
center must not be handicapped by de- 
pending on unreliable artists who might fail 
to show up. This could cause the com- 
munity to lose faith in your projections. 

There is another problem which 
might easily arise: a very reliable artist 
might be stranded at the airport as a result 
of inclement weather or delayed by some 
other contingency. Consequently, this 
artist can't show, and the general audience 
came especially to see his/her performance. 
You should always have a good enough 
back-up person or group to offset this 
contingency. The latter should be able to 
carry on the show without destroying the 
expectations of the audience. Scheduling 
your festivals, performances or exhibitions 
should always project efficiency, reliability 
and the ability to deliver on time. 

People respect a professional who 
delivers a product or service on time as 
advertised. Community residents have been 
disappointed frequently. Don't disillusion 
them. The key is sincerity and excellence 
on the part of all those who are associated 
with the center's operations, especially the 
professional and management staff. 








Your proposal has been turned 
down; the Executive Director quit; the 
Chairman of the Board, who is a hard 
worker and a good fund-raiser, is trans- 
ferred to another location; the basement 
gets flooded; the roof starts leaking; the 
telephone company won't install a phone 
unless you make a $200 downpayment; the 
dance teacher is pregnant and she decides 
to quit; the art exhibition is ruined by a 
rainstorm the night before the opening; 
you haven't been able to pay the secretary 
for three weeks and her confidence is 
diminishing; the main attraction profes- 
sional group doesn't show up on the night 
of a benefit concert; some technical equip- 
ment has been stolen and you need it 
urgently; the film projector will not work 
and the only person who knows how to fix 
it can't be located; according to the media, 
people associate a fight outside the center, 
during which somebody got shot, with 
what's going on in the center; someone 
slipped in the center and injured himself 
seriously, and you don't have proper insur- 
ance coverage. Whew! You've got all the 
problems in the world! Now, what are you 
going to do about them? 

Stay loose! Take care of other 
matters on time and as they arise. When the 
crisis arises, your mind and spirit should be 
free to make on-the-spot decisions. So stay 
caught up in your developmental chores, 
conserving creative energy for the inevit- 
able crisis. Stay loose. 


Creative leadership is getting things 
done efficiently with a minimum of con- 
flict and confusion. The center must have 
responsible officials who can work together 
in harmony and with integrity at all opera- 

tional levels. The leadership should have 
vision, imagination, flexibility and 
discipline. All segments of the community 
should feel free to discuss new ideas and 
innovative projects with the leadership. 
Creative leadership should be encouraging 
of, and receptive to, new ideas from the 
community-at-large. Don't wait for profes- 
sionals and artists to suggest alternative 
ways of doing things. If you look, you will 
discover that the broader community has 
its own genius; its voice should be heard. 
People must believe that the center is a 
place where they can be recognized and 
respected for their ideas, their work and 
their contributions. 

A leadership training program, with 
special emphasis on training young people 
from the community, should be developed 
as an ongoing aspect of the center's opera- 

Above all, do not be afraid to stop, 
take time out and look at the way things 
are running. If you have serious problems, 
look back at your original plans; why 
didn't they work out? Has the situation 
changed? Be flexible; you can always take 
time to replam Pausing a few moments, a 
day or two, to take stock, reassess and re- 
vise plans and goals does not mean you 
have failed; it shows that the center's 
leadership is flexible and can adapt to 
changing conditions. That's admirable! 


Some neighborhood arts centers 
spread themselves too thin by engaging in 
many activities without the resources or 
capacity needed to deliver a quality 
product Some administrators get carried 
away, and they believe that by expanding 
the range of their program offerings the 
center's operations will become more vital 
to the community. Leadership should be 
conscious of this position and cautioned 
against unplanned and nonsystematic 
growth projections. The center must be 
built steadily and systematically. The 


foundations must be solid before you start 
to expand. You must try to establish strong 
local and regional bases before you launch 
out on overly ambitious projects. One 
major program disaster could destroy years 
of hard work and diminish participatory 
enthusiasm. This does not mean that 
leadership cannot be enterprising. On the 
contrary, creativity demands enterprise, 
but suggests that there must be serious 
planning and programmatic discipline. 

Excellence is the key. Provide a 
quality product to your constituency and 
they will take pride in, and identify with, a 
sound operation. Stay away from paternal- 
ism, sentimentality and mediocrity. Set 
high standards for your work and achieve 
them. Set attainable objectives and work 
hard to realize them. Always get the best 
available talent to do what you want within 
the limitations of your resources. Don't 
attempt to mount a production you can't 
afford; if it fails because you are out of 
money, your program can be severely em- 
barassed. It is important to know what you 
can accomplish and when to stop. Always 
keep your eye on the budgetary schedules, 
so that existing projects are not thrown out 
of line and new proposals are not made 

Identifying realistic goals, develop- 
ing the self-assurance that makes achieve- 
ment of these goals possible and being able 
to implement a program to achieve them 
are important to the welfare of any family. 
The organizers of any program should 
demonstrate ample proof that, through the 
activities of the center, the well-being of 
the community is ideally served and the 
quality of life is enhanced. 


List all the spin-offs you can think 
of. For example: 

1 ) You can sell the work of the 
artists at the center's museum. 

2) You can produce records and 
develop an independent label. 

3) You can make films or video- 
tapes, which can be rented as teaching aids 
to various groups. 

Spin-offs can be unlimited. Actually, they 
are only limited by the creative imagination 
of the participants in the center and the 
allocatable resources. 

In a neighborhood arts center, one 
can develop income-generating products 
and expand marketing skills which will help 
the center in its attempt to become self- 

Be aware of the enormous 
economic possibilities that could spin-off 
from a well-run center. Build libraries, 
archives, museums, preschools, production 
and management enterprises, art supplies 
cooperatives; organize educational visits to 
historic sites; conduct exchange programs 
with other centers; organize conferences 
with organizations similar to yours to ex- 
change ideas, share problems and find 
solutions; recruit talent from prisons and 
provide alternative educational opportuni- 
ties for the gifted; publish pamphlets, 
books, poetry of gifted young writers; sell 
pottery, glassware, canned fruit; on and on 
and on. 



Tips for taking care of business 

1) The flow of responsibilities and 
decision-making must be clearly delineated 
and understood. 

2) Planning is critical to the life of 
the center. It helps you to see where you 
are going and which projections make sense 
in light of available resources. 

3) Proposals for grants must be 
properly submitted. 

4) Reports to funding sources and 
program participants should be profes- 
sionally presented. 

5) Introduce proper accounting 
methods and final reports, which must be 
submitted by due dates. 

6) Bills must be paid promptly, so 
that essentials— such as telephone service, 
gas and electricity— are not cut off. 

7) Final records, program records, 
inventory records and personnel records 
should be kept separately, with easy access 
to specific information for working 

8) All records and program mate- 
rials should be centralized and securely 
maintained in case of fire or burglary. 

9) Vacancies must be filled as 
quickly as possible with the most compe- 
tent person available, and the decision 
should not be postponed. 

10) The building should be kept 
clean, safe, orderly and efficient. Hire a 
custodian who can perform maintenance 
duties for equipment, as well as physical 
plant. A multi-skilled custodian can be a 
tremendous asset and well worth the 
money. In early stages, be prepared to pro- 
vide security services, depending upon the 
demographics of the neighborhood. 

1 1 ) Classes, workshops and 
seminars should meet promptly as 

12) Public presentations should be 
honored as advertised, except in extreme 
situations which can be explained honestly 
to the public. 

13) Draw a line between artistic 
creativity and managerial creativity. 

14) Avoid sloppiness in operations 
and art products developed for public 

1 5) Document all the activities of 
the center, reserving some period for 
critical review. 


There is an environment of the 
spirit, which should be nurtured in the 
local community through a healthy 
program— theatre, music, dance, film, 
photography, painting, sculpture, creative 
writing, puppetry, jewelry making, etc. It is 
an attempt to bring professionals and local 
residents together, which could be a new 
release of creative energy and hope. The 
idea is to make the creative experience a 
neighborhood thing, a community gather- 
ing, a celebration organized from a central 
location. It will represent the 
RE-CREATION of cultural life in your 

Document all the activi- 
ties of the center. 


Page Number Photographer 

Inside Front Cover Marbeth 

4 Edward Klamm 

13 Richard Tichich 

23 Edward Klamm 

Graphic design by Portfolio Associates, Inc., Philadelphia, Pa. 
Lisa Werchow, Art Director